Choosing a Vet for the Best Ferret Care

Guest Post by Michael Hearing

Ferrets make great pets, but, as we’ve mentioned before, pet ferrets are fairly high-maintenance critters. Part of that maintenance involves frequent vet visits becauseFerrets Playing ferrets are prone to several health issues. It is very important, then, that you choose a vet who is knowledgeable about, experienced in, and equipped for proper ferret care.

Here, for example, is what happened the first time Karen took her fuzzy kids, Rikki and Possum, to the vet.

We called a trusted vet we had used several times before with our dogs and cats and made an appointment. But when we (and Karen’s woozles) arrived at the vet’s office, we didn’t get to see Dr. M. Instead, we saw a young woman who was just six months out of vet school.

Now, she was friendly, easy to talk to, and generally knowledgeable about veterinarian matters, and she was a pleasure to deal with. But she had very little experience with ferrets – which she was up front about. This brand-new vet couldn’t answer many of our questions about ferret health. So Rikki and Possum got a general exam and their vaccinations and no more. We went home to research answers to our questions on ferret care and ferret health on our own.

In Ferrets for Dummies (which we consult often) Kim Schilling emphasizes the need to ask a lot of questions before you choose a vet – and not to just assume they know about ferret care, as we did. Schilling says: “Questions are your best tools. A good, professional veterinarian and staff will recognize your valid concerns and won’t hesitate to answer your questions as completely as possible.”

Schilling recommends that you ask at least a few basic questions before choosing a vet so that you can find out:

  • How long the vet has been practicing ferret medicine and how many pet ferrets he or she generally treats in typical day, week, or month
  • The vet’s experience with diagnosing and treating common ferret diseases
  • Whether the clinic stocks plenty of ferret vaccinations (e.g., USDA-approved rabies vaccine)
  • Fees for check-ups, examinations, and vaccinations
  • Whether the facility is equipped to house (overnight or even longer) ferrets that may require hospitalization
  • The vet’s level of experience in handling both routine surgeries (such as spaying and neutering) and more involved surgeries (such as tumor removal and adrenal-related surgeries)
  • What kind of continuing education the vet uses to stay abreast of recent developments in ferret medicine and the latest in surgical techniques

So, choose a vet for you fuzzy kids wisely. You wouldn’t take your other children to just any old doctor, would you?

For more information on ferret health and ferret care, see Getting Started with Pet Ferrets.

Ferret Health-Care Products – What Do Your Pet Ferrets Really Need?

If you’ve owned a ferret for even a short length of time, you’re probably aware that there are countless products touted as essential for ferret health. But you have to keep in mind that every ferret has his own unique needs and that no one product is suitable for allPet Ferrets Peeking Out of Ferret Cage ferrets.  So here is a breakdown of what’s available and why you should (or shouldn’t) consider these ferret-health products for your fuzzy.

Ferret Health-Maintenance Products – As you can imagine, there are many ferret-health medications. Most of them are best used under a veterinarian’s direction because improper use may mask a serious medical condition or even cause a new problem.

  • Dental-care products include tooth-cleaning gels and chewable tartar-control treats. Look for products specifically made for ferrets because treats made for dogs or other animals may break off and cause digestive problems for your pet ferrets.
  • Ear-cleaning solutions remove wax and other debris from your ferret’s ears, prevent infestation by mites, and also help cut down that distinctive ferret odor.
  • Eye solutions are excellent to apply before you shampoo your ferret. The solution forms a temporary barrier against liquid irritants, thus making bath time much more enjoyable for both you and your ferret.
  • Hairball treatments include gel formulas that act as a laxative. The gel coats hair and other small debris in the digestive tract to make it easier for your ferret to expel.

Odor-Control Products – There are many of these products that can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Odor-eliminator sprays, which can be used for a variety of animals including ferrets, neutralize the scent of urine, stools, and vomit. These products are used when the scent is already present, and typically they can be used in the air, on furniture, in the washing machine, and even in the vacuum cleaner.
  • Other sprays are available that can be applied directly onto your ferret to eliminate her distinctive scent. These can also be sprayed into the litter pan or in the cage, once daily or several times a day, to keep all odors down to a minimum.
  • There are also food and water additives that can be used to cut down on your ferret’s natural musky scent. The best of these ferret odor-control products can go a long way toward greatly reducing ferret odor.

Skin and Coat Treatments – Everyone loves a ferret with a shiny, luxurious coat. A healthy coat is a sign of a healthy ferret. There are many products available to help you keep your ferret looking good.

  • Ferret treats that include such nutrients as Omega 3, B-12 (or brewer’s yeast), fatty acids, and of course, protein, will help your fuzzy have a healthy coat.
  • Ferret shampoos and rinses clean your ferret without stripping its protective oils. Some products provide a protective coating of lanolin to prevent dryness.
  • Styptic products can be used to heal minor cuts and wounds. They are ideal for wounds that occur during nail clipping.

Vitamins and Supplements – Just as there are countless vitamins and supplements for humans, there are many varieties available for ferrets. They are available as chewable treats, liquids and sprays, and in single- or multi-nutrient forms.

  • To prevent or treat digestive problems such as Epizootic Catarrhal Enteritis (ECE), diarrhea, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) look for products with protein, fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
  • High-calorie supplements should be used only for ferrets recovering from illness or surgery or otherwise very underweight. That’s because these supplements often contain sugar, which is generally not healthy for ferrets. Give such supplements only on the advice of a veterinarian and never to a ferret that has insulinoma, because of the sugar content.
  • Generally, ferrets need the following for good health: Vitamin A, Vitamin D or D3, Vitamin E, and fatty acids. Look for multivitamin supplements made specifically for ferrets and that are oil- rather than sugar-based.

Most of these health-care products supplements for pet ferrets are readily available online or at your local pet store. Follow the package directions and store them in a clean, dry location away from children and pets. Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions or problems.

So learn all you can about ferret health and ferret care to ensure healthy, happy ferrets. Ferret-health products can add many years to your pet’s life if they are used carefully. Consider which products your pet needs and start using them today.

Adrenal Gland Disease in Pet Ferrets – Be Aware

Ferrets, as you probably know if you’ve been privileged to be associated with them for any length of time, are high-maintenance pets. And one area where that high maintenance is most pronounced is ferret health. Pet ferrets, unfortunately, are prone to several health issues that you need to be aware of. A vet visit early on can often mean a longer, healthier life for your favorite fuzzies.

A fairly common health problem in older ferrets is cancer stemming from adrenal disease.Panda Ferret and Albino Ferret Playing The good news is that this condition isn’t always fatal and is in many cases treatable or at least manageable. But early detection and diagnosis and proper treatment and medical intervention are crucial.

So let’s take a look at adrenal gland disease in pet ferrets.

Adrenal glands in ferrets, just as in humans, are small endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys. (They are, of course, the glands from whose name we get the term “adrenaline.”) These glands produce important steroid hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, and testosterone, as well as epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones play a vital role in several health areas: regulating blood glucose and electrolyte levels, increasing musculature, effective stress-related responses, and proper sexual functioning, for example. Problems arise when these glands produce either too much or too little of one or some these critical hormones.

While adrenal gland disease is fairly common in ferrets (usually ferrets three years old and older), the exact reasons why still haven’t been determined. Some of the possible causes that have been put forward by ferret experts are:

  • Prolonged and excessive stress – When animals (or people) encounter a stressful situation, the adrenal glands release adrenaline in preparation for fight or flight. When this happens too often and for long periods, adrenaline gland disease may result—just as people who are adrenaline junkies and engage in activities that bring on the fight-or-flight response often experience health issues later in life.
  • Early neutering – When pet ferrets are neutered before puberty/sexual development hormonal imbalances can result and lead to adrenal disease.
  • Unnatural light cycles – Pet ferrets living indoors are often subjected to light cycles that are far different from what they would experience in the wild. It has been suggested that this could also be a cause of adrenal gland disease.

Adrenal disease could also be the result of a combination of all three factors listed above. In any case, the main thing is to recognize the signs/symptoms of the disease early on and then take the necessary medical steps.

The signs of adrenal disease can vary depending on specific hormones involved, ferret’s sex, and stage of disease, but here are the most common:

  • Hair loss – Probably the number-one sign of adrenal disease is hair loss on the ferret’s tail, the body, or both. (Be aware, though, that hair loss doesn’t always accompany adrenal disease, and it can be intermittent and sporadic.) This characteristic hair loss usually begins at the tail and then moves up the body.
  • Muscle loss, weakness, and swollen abdomen
  • Excessive itching (perhaps accompanied by redness or flaking on the skin)
  • Unusual aggressiveness (both toward owners and other ferrets)

Further, females may display signs of anemia, and spayed females may have swollen vulva. Males may have difficulty urinating (owing to a swollen prostate), and neutered males may even display aggressive mating behavior.

The good news here is that many times diagnosing adrenal disease isn’t all that difficult. So as soon as you see any of the tell-tale signs of this disease, get you ferret to the vet as soon as possible. The possibility of adrenal gland disease is also a good reason to schedule regular vet visits.

There are several treatment options for adrenal gland disease. The best option for you and your fuzzy will be determined in large part by your ferret’s age and health and financial considerations. These treatment options range from surgery to alternative medical options such as medication (lupron, for instance), suprelorin implants, and melatonin supplementation (orally or implanted).

The main thing, though, is to understand the signs of adrenal gland disease and always be on the lookout for them. If anything seems amiss, get you ferret to the vet as soon as possible. Your fuzzy kids deserve the best care you can provide.

Check out our new book with extensive sections on ferret health and ferret care.

Rikki and Possum – An Update on My Pet Ferrets

I was just looking over my past posts on this blog. It seems I have covered a lot of topics – maintaining good ferret health, ferret odor, ferret toys, vaccines, food, litter, and illnesses.

In going over this list of post topics, it occurred to me that I haven’t written anything aboutRikki, My Female Albino Ferret Rikki and Possum in a while. And they are the main reasons I started this website.

So, here goes . . .

Rikki is still my “ADHD” albino fuzzy. I have had her 2 years now, and she is still going strong.

Possum is my 1-year-old panda woozle. He was my laid-back chubby woozle. He’s still laid back, but he finally lost his baby fat. He isn’t as active as Rikki, but he still plays a lot, especially when he can get Rikki to play in the dig box with him.Possum, My Male Panda Ferret

I think their favorite game to play is tag, especially if I play with them. It seems like I’m the one who is always “IT” because they are a lot faster than I am – and I can’t fit under my bed and dresser. That’s where Rikki and Possum always run to keep me from tagging them.

After a game of tag, which usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes, then it’s dig-box and tube time. And that will last around 2 hours. After that, it’s nap time. By then, I’m ready for a nap too.

So Rikki and Possum are still doing great. And they are as ornery as ever.

Pet Ferrets and . . . Warts!?

Here’s a new one for you ferret lovers. Someone recently asked me this question: “DoFerret Playing in Tube System ferrets cause warts?”

No, my friend, ferrets do not cause warts. But – and this is something a lot of people don’t know – ferrets can get warts. And through some research, I found that ferrets cannot pass warts to humans.

Warts on a human are skin growths caused by a virus in the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) family. This virus causes rapid growth of a hard protein (called keratin) in the top layer of skin, which then results in warts.

After doing some research and talking to veterinarians, I found that the “warts” on our little fuzzies are actually Subaceous Epitheliomas, wart-like tumors that are usually benign. If your woozle has anything like these, you should take your fuzzy to the vet. You should never take a chance with your fuzzy baby!

So, the answer to the original question is: “No, pet ferrets cannot pass warts to us, their human parents.”

Find out much more about ferret health and ferret care in Getting Started with Pet Ferrets.


Inexpensive and Homemade Ferret Toys as Ferret Gifts for Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching. And if you’re like us, you’ve barely begun your shopping. When it comes to your pet ferrets, though, Christmas gift shopping gets a whole lot easier. Ferret toys for Christmas can be very inexpensive and easy to find. You may already have many of these ferret gifts lying around your house. If your ferrets can play with it, they willPanda Ferret Playing like it – and they can play with just about anything.

Here are a few ideas for ferret toys for your fuzzies’ Christmas that won’t break the bank.

  1. Christmas stocking. A Christmas stocking makes a perfect sleep sack for your fuzzy. Your ferrets will immediately climb in and make it a holiday home. Of course, the stocking needs to be big enough for your ferret to get inside easily. Also, make sure it is securely made with no jingle bells, bows, pompons, or other items that could be choking hazards.
  2. Squeaky toys. Remember that your ferret, as cute and cuddly as she is, is a predator by nature. So your carpet shark would probably love to find a toy or two that can she can attack. Just be sure that these ferret toys are made of really solid materials – those teeth were meant to gnaw, and a flimsy plastic toy won’t last through Christmas morning. (By the way, you may want to keep out of the way when your fuzzy is playing with his new toy – in its frenzy, he could mistake your toes as part of the toy.)
  3. A pan for splashing or rummaging in. You already know that your fuzzies like to dig in their litter pans, so a low pan, like a dish pan or a kitty litter pan, would be ideal. Maybe you can use the pan to wrap other toys in. When your ferrets tear through the wrapping to open their gift, they’ll find a lot of fun inside. They may have so much fun that the rest of your household can go and open their gifts in relative peace.
  4. Cat-scratching posts. Those carpeted platforms-with-columns are not just for kitty. Put one in a large, sturdy crate and snake some ferret-tunnel tubing around it. It will take only a few minutes to create a wonderland for your ferret. Best of all, when your ferret goes back in its cage, you can disassemble the playground and set it up a different way tomorrow.
  5. Cardboard boxes. Remember when your kids were small? You’d find the perfect (albeit very expensive) electronic learning toy for them, but they ended up having more fun with the box it came in. Ferrets are the same. Give them a box (perhaps the ones from your human family’s gifts), and they’ll be quite content.
  6. Plastic bags. Just as cardboard boxes make perfect toys for kids and ferrets, paper or plastic bags also work well – as long as you remove or cut off the handle portion, which could be a choking hazard. Ferrets love making noise with the crinkly material and exploring the interior.
  7. Medicine bottles. Those child-safe containers left over from prescription or over-the-counter medications are perfect. Clean them out thoroughly (and that means VERY thoroughly), dry them out, and then fill them with whatever small noisemakers you have on hand – rice, popcorn, jingle bells, etc. The child-proof caps will hold the items securely inside while your ferrets play.

For more ferret-toy ideas and recommendations take a look at Getting Started with Pet Ferrets. You can sample our new book on ferret care and ferret health at both Amazon and Smashwords.

More Ferret Health Concerns

So there has been a lot of interest in ferret diseases and health problems in ferrets lately.  I have already done a few posts on sick ferrets, but it seems that another one is in order.

One reader wanted to know about the mortality rate in ferrets that have periodontal disease.Happy Panda Ferret in Bag I have researched this and talked to a vet about it. It turns out that periodontal disease is not fatal – if you catch it in time. But if you don’t have it taken care of, the infection will go into the blood stream and then into the kidneys and liver.  Very bad for ferrets.

So, just as we humans need to take care of our teeth, we also need to take care of our little fuzzies’ teeth. When you do your ferrets’ daily grooming, add in brushing their teeth. Yes, brush your ferrets’ teeth! It’s also a good way to see if any other illnesses are developing. And remember to take your fuzzies to the vet periodically to have any stubborn tartar build-up removed.

Here, according to Getting Started with Pet Ferrets, is how to brush a ferret’s teeth:

  1. Hold it firmly by the scruff of the neck.
  2. Gently open your ferret’s mouth.
  3. Use the toothpaste and toothbrush to brush its teeth. Remove any greenish-gray tartar buildup.
  4. As you brush, check the gums. They should be pink, firm, moist, and smooth. If the gums are red, white, or gray, take your ferret to a veterinarian.
  5. Rinse the toothbrush and use it to massage the gums.

Keep in mind, too, that fluoride is toxic to ferrets. So always use a ferret-safe tooth paste that does NOT contain fluoride.

Now, another ferret health issue that has been of interest lately is one that involves coughing, weight loss, and constipation.  All of these could be signs of blockage in your ferret’s intestines or stomach. Just like cats, ferrets can get hairballs, but unlike cats, they can’t cough them up. The hairball just sits there building up into one large mass.

I give my fuzzies Ferret Lax (which I either order from Amazon or get from my local pet store) twice a week. This helps them pass the hairballs, which they can’t cough up. Rikki and Possum also like the taste.

Still, prevention is the best cure for hairball problems. I try to brush Rikki and Possum every day, especially during their shedding seasons. The shedding occurs twice a year, spring and fall. For this, I use a brush made for cats.

I want to stress that when you begin to suspect any ferret illness or ferret disease, you should take your fuzzy baby to the vet. This way, you can make sure early on that there isn’t something seriously wrong. Without proper treatment, something as seemingly inconsequential as dirty teeth or hairballs could make your ferret seriously ill or even lead to death.

A Great Book on Ferret Care and Ferret Health

As you know, I started adding more fuzzies to my family after I found Rikki Tikki Tavi at work oneFerrets Playing night. When I found Rikki, I didn’t know anything about ferrets as pets. I had to rely on my friends who used to have pet ferrets and on their so-called expertise and knowledge.

It turned out, though, that they weren’t the ferret experts I thought they were. Almost everything they told me about ferret care was wrong.

A lot of people just told me to do some research online. But, since I didn’t have a computer at the time, that didn’t work out very well. It also made it hard for me to find any good ferret books.

I finally did find a book at our local pet store – Ferrets (Barrons) by E. Lynn “Fox” Morton and Christine Mathis. This book helped me with the basics about how to take care of Rikki, but it doesn’t really go into a lot of detail.

Poor Rikki had to put up with my ignorance. And then poor Possum got thrown into the mix and also had to suffer through my lack of knowledge about ferret care.

A few months ago my husband bought me another book – Ferrets for Dummies by Kim Schilling. This book has become my Bible on how to take care of my little fuzzy kids. And, boy, were they happy that I was finally learning something!

You wouldn’t believe all the things I found out I was doing wrong. Even Rikki and Possum’s vet didn’t know about some of the health issues Ferrets for Dummies covers. Kim Schilling goes into great detail and covers everything from getting started and getting a ferret to ferret health issues to saying goodbye when the time comes (which I hope is a long ways down the road for me and my babies).

I highly recommend this book for first-time ferret owners. Once you get it, it will likely become your ferret Bible too.

Keep Your Pet Ferrets Healthy – Don’t Feed Them Sugar

Ferret Eating StrawberriesDo ferrets like sugar? You bet they do! But sugar is bad for them and can lead to some pretty severe ferret health conditions. I found out about my ferrets’ sugar cravings the hard way, and now I am much more careful.

I found out about Rikki’s love for sugar a couple of months after I found her. I was sitting on my bedroom floor with Rikki and my glass of Dr. Pepper. I was really involved in the movie I was watching when I felt something wet on my behind. I looked down and saw that Rikki had knocked over my glass and was drinking from it as fast as she could. After a couple more of these “accidents,” I learned not to put my Dr. Pepper where she could get to it and knock it over.

I found out about Possum’s sugar love the hard way too! I used to keep peppermint candy in my purse, which I kept in my room – till I started finding candy wrappers and pieces of candy all over my bedroom floor. At first I thought maybe it was my grandkids, but then I caught Possum in the act. So, now, I don’t keep my purse in my bedroom (where Rikki and Possom have their home) anymore.

I mention these “accidents” because sugar is definitely not good for ferrets. But ferrets love sugar. (Just like us, they seem to like best what is worst for them.) So you need to make sure to keep sugary foods and drinks well out of their reach. It didn’t take me long to figure that out.

Refined sugar (and even sugar in fruits) is bad for ferrets, and its consumption can lead to several health problems. First, as would be expected, sugar can cause tooth decay in ferrets. Sugar can also aggravate (and possibly even be a contributing cause of) insulinoma – the most diagnosed cancer in ferrets. Insulinoma is a cancer of the insulin-secreting pancreatic cells and is fairly common in older ferrets. You certainly don’t want to aggravate this condition by letting your ferret consume sugar.

 So if you love your ferrets, don’t give them sugar or feed them any foods containing sugar. And watch out for situations that could turn into sugar “accidents.” (Some folks say that ferrets can have very small amounts of low-sugar, low-acid fruits as a rare treat – but many ferret experts advise against it.) Now, my little fuzzy kids never get sugar at all!